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Sociology of Journalism

Yet Another Panel on Internet Ethics!

The Washington Post is running a panel on internet ethics!

Panel: Ethics & Interactivity Jim Brady, Jeff Jarvis, Jane Hamsher, Jay Rosen, Glenn Reynolds

Wednesday, January 25, 2006; 1:00 PM: Last Thursday, washingtonpost.com turned off the reader comments feature on post.blog... after several comments containing personal attacks, profanity and hate speech were posted on an item about Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell's recent column about the Abramoff scandal.... To open the discourse about how reader-submitted comments should be handled, washingtonpost.com has invited several prominent bloggers to join us... to discuss the evolving nature of Internet commentary and ethics.

I have a question for Mr Brady:

I have read David Rosenbaum's big April 2002 front-page New York Times article about Jack Abramoff: "[Abramoff] is, by his own description, a committed ideologue.... tries hard to persuade his fellow Washington lobbyists to give more generously to the Republican Party... expects to raise as much as $5 million this year..." And I have read Susan Schmidt's first article written 22 months later--the one that David Leen says broke the Abramoff scandal--"Under Abramoff's guidance, the four tribes... have loosened their traditional ties to the Democratic Party, giving Republicans two-thirds of the $2.9 million they have donated.... The payday for the GOP is small though, compared with the $15.1 million the tribes have paid Abramoff and his law firm..."

Why in the Holy Name of the Lord would anybody think it is appropriate to characterize this--as Deborah Howell continues to characterize it--as "[Abramoff] directed his client Indian tribes to make campaign contributions to members of Congress from both parties"? What even semi-rational thought process could lead anyone to think that Howell's is a fair characterization of Schmidt's "loosened... ties to the Democratic Party" and of Rosenbaum's "committed ideologue.... tries hard to persuade... [others] to give more generously to the Republican Party... expects to raise as much as $5 million"?

Thus my question for Mr. Brady: what does he believe is the appropriate role of readers when confronted by someone like Deborah Howell who appears to have taken leave of her senses and abandoned the reality-based community? Should we write letters to the ombudsman?

We'll see if the Post views this question as adding to the discourse.